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New York special election is a smelling salt for Obama, Democrats

New York special election: In a House district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1, the victory of GOP businessman Bob Turner delivers a sobering message to the Democratic Party leadership.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / September 14, 2011

Bob Turner (c.), joined by his wife Peggy and family, smiles as he delivers his victory speech during a New York special election night party, Wednesday, Sept. 14. Turner says his shocking win in a heavily Democratic New York City district is a 'loud and clear' message to Washington.

Mary Altaffer/AP

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New York

For the first time since 1923 – when Warren Harding was president – a Republican will represent New York's Ninth Congressional District, which stretches from Queens into Brooklyn.

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In a district that is heavily Democratic, Republican retired businessman Bob Turner defeated Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin in a special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D), who resigned in June after he admitted sending racy photos and messages to various women.

Mr. Turner said his victory – by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent – sends a message to President Obama. “This is a historic race,” said Turner in his victory speech. “I’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington, and I hope they hear it loud and clear. I’m the messenger.”

It was a theme that dominated his campaign and one with which some outside political analysts agree.

They say the Turner victory, in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1, should send a sobering message to the Democratic Party leadership.

“This should have been a walk in the park for the Democrats, even considering the circumstances,” says Costas Pangopoulos, a political scientist at Fordham University in New York. “Make no mistake about it, Barack Obama was on this ballot yesterday and he clearly lost.”

In Washington, Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio echoed that sentiment. In a statement, he said New Yorkers have “delivered a strong warning to the Democrats who control the levers of power in our federal government.”

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch said the election sent a specific message to Mr. Obama over his Israel policies. In May, Obama suggested that Israel’s borders should be returned to pre-1967 outlines and that Israel should impose a freeze on new settlements in the West Bank. Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus,” says Mr. Koch.

“I think the message is don’t take the Jewish constituency for granted – and this district has the largest Jewish constituency in the nation,” said Koch in an interview on Tuesday.

In an indication of how important he considered the Jewish vote, Turner traveled through parts of Brooklyn Tuesday with Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew and a Democrat who endorsed him a week before the election. The district is about 30 percent Jewish, including many Russian Orthodox Jews, who often have more conservative views.

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